For the first time a Guyanese sits on the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC).
Dr Christopher Arif Bulkan yesterday gained the second highest number of votes in the first round of balloting and became one of 18 who form the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its State parties.
Bulkan who was nominated by Guyana in September last year is an Attorney-at-Law and Senior Law Lecturer at the University of the West Indies with specializations in Public Law, Constitutional Law, Caribbean Human Rights Law, and International Human Rights Law. He also co-founded the Faculty of Law UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) at the Cave Hill campus, which is a group of law professors who engage in litigation and advocacy aimed at promoting human rights.
Dr. Bulkan has been involved in human rights advocacy for many years and has worked to establish and defend the rights of vulnerable and marginalized communities including working closely with the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD). He has also been involved in public advocacy against the death penalty, both regionally and at events sponsored by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs extended its congratulations to Bulkan on his election and best wishes for a successful tenure as a member of the Human Rights Committee.
It said that he was elected along with the candidates of Tunisia, France, Slovenia, Greece, Japan, Uganda, Albania and Chile in the elections held during the 36th session of the meeting of States Parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The statement said that Bulkan is positive that his election is a meaningful portent of the global community’s commitment to engaging the Caribbean in the work of the Human Rights Committee through the promotion of universal human rights norms and standards. He also aspires, the statement said, to use his tenure on the Committee to engender greater investment by countries of the region in the aims and values of the Covenant.
Onika Stellingburg, Guyana’s 2018 Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) Climate Change Fellow who is attached to the UN Mission as an Advisor told Stabroek News that there were 17 candidates vying for the nine available seats at yesterday’s election. Dr. Bulkan gained a total of 120 of the 169 valid ballots cast. A run-off vote between the United States and Chile in a second-round of voting resulted in the latter winning after gaining 101 compared to 63 votes.
The nine elected members will replace those members whose four year term ends on December 31, 2018. The nine exiting members are from the United States, France, Japan, Montenegro, Uganda, Greece, Italy and Suriname.
According to the UNHRC Website members of the committee are expected to be persons of high moral character and recognised competence in the field of human rights with consideration being given to the usefulness of the participation of some persons having legal experience.
Members are elected for a term of four years by States parties from among their nationals, consideration being given to equitable geographical distribution and to representation of the different forms of civilization as well as of the principal legal systems, in accordance with article 31 of the Covenant. Members serve in their personal capacity and may be re-elected if re-nominated.